On flirting for cancer
Iwas in the bar of the Shelbourne Hotel recently. The last time I’d been there was ‘research’ for a newspaper article — two dating experts were showing me how they train singletons to up their game. I, heart a-pounding, followed the instructions I’d been given. Scan the room for the guy you find most attractive, think of an opener, approach and get chatting — that was the idea. Naturally, the opener wouldn’t be of the ‘so this woman you’re holding hands with... is she a spouse or just some lass you tripped over a moment ago?’ Guys without gals, who might be open to your ‘hello’ was what I was after. (Although don’t talk to me about my defunct gaydar... that’s another story.)
To cut the saga short, I was surprised how easy it was: that once you get over the ‘I think I’m going to faint/combust/ barf with nerves’ bit, it’s not that hard to approach an attractive total stranger and natter. It’s in our nature as brainy apes to be curious, open to connection, to throw words at each other because, fundamentally, it’s craic. Think of the words as bananas and imagine you’re in the Serengeti, if that helps (that wasn’t one of their ideas; I just made it up now).
I needed help — I’d never really done it before because I’d always considered myself a useless flirt. Gorgeousness in a man makes me tonguetied. And I always harboured the passive feminine notion that if the man was the Mr Right, he’d come over to me , and we’d proceed seamlessly into True Love from there: the ‘if it’s right, you don’t have to try’ myth. So, I found that escapade very empowering. I can’t wait to try it in Real Life, I told my ‘trainers’. Who knew what might happen! Indeed. Next thing I had cancer ( have I mentioned that before? ha ha!) and, well, the mood to flirt kind of left me.
Funnily enough, a couple of years later, t’was the cancer had me back in the plush loveliness of the Shelbourne. In my capacity as one of The Nualas, I’d been checking out one of the hotel’s function rooms for our upcoming involvement in an Irish Cancer Society Emergency Fundraising Event. Emergency? Yep — the weather on the main fundraising Daffodil Day this year was apocalyptic and the amount raised was 50 per cent lower than usual — a €1 million shortfall. These funds are required for essential services for cancer patients and their families: free nursing for patients at home; financial support; help with transportation to and from chemotherapy treatment, especially in rural areas; the running
The only man I’ve had a crush on since I got cancer was the plastic surgeon who did my breast reconstruction
of Daffodil Centres in many hospitals and putting cancer patients in touch with survivors in the peer support programme, not to mention, funding the National Cancer Helpline, which last year answered more than 22,000 calls.
This particular event the special ‘emergency committee’ is organising is a glamorous shindig, the Halloween Masquerade. Dress in your finest, don a mysterious mask, enjoy a red- carpet and bubbly reception, a three-course meal, entertainment from us, a big-name comedian host, a band, a disco until late, plus an auction of fab stuff. I met two of the four-member committee, Liagh Miller, who was diagnosed and treated for stage- three breast cancer five years ago, and Eoin Fennessy, who has a malignant brain tumour and is currently in treatment. Cancer wasn’t all we had in common, also a love of a drink and a chat, and then, why not, another drink. Hence the bar.
I told them about my last experience of being there, how I thought a whole new world of men had opened up, but since my Big C, fellas have been off my agenda. The only man I’ve had a crush on since was the plastic surgeon who did my breast reconstruction, which feels silly (the crush, not the boob). ‘Have you had crushes on your doctors?’ I asked Liagh and Eoin. No, said Liagh, running through an explanatory description of those she’d encountered, including one who ‘looked like Harry Potter’, and another who was Professor Crown. Eoin hadn’t either, but he said if a female surgeon reconstructed his ‘men’s bits’ (not his exact words), he’d fall in love with her too. Oh, okay, I don’t feel that silly, then…
Back in the real world, I said I’d show them, using my rusty training, how easy it is to insinuate yourself into the company of male strangers. It just so happened a jovial gang of alpha-male types had entered the bar. ‘Oil industry,’ I was thinking. ‘Are you Norwegian?’ I asked one, who looked like he might be from Norway (searingly flirty, I know). No, he wasn’t. The lads weren’t ‘oil’ but, let’s just say, ‘high finance’. I thought, ‘ bingo’ for my new fundraising chums and dragged him over to meet the ‘committee’. He kindly shared contacts that might help Liagh and Eoin in their efforts and even agreed to purchase a table at the event. ‘I just flirted for cancer,’ I thought, happily. Next step, doing it for myself. Now, just imagine, it’s the Serengeti, bananas... Irish Cancer Society Halloween Masquerade, 1 Nov. Tickets €85 from cancer.ie/online-shop or call Eoin on 086 372 7555. All ICS services can be accessed by calling 1800 200 700